Not for profit: Servicing an aged-care niche

13/11/2007 - 22:00

What started out as a small gardening service for elderly Bayswater residents has become a 25-year commitment to aged and disability care from Bayswater Extended Community Help Organisation.

Not for profit: Servicing an aged-care niche

What started out as a small gardening service for elderly Bayswater residents has become a 25-year commitment to aged and disability care from Bayswater Extended Community Help Organisation.

Celebrating a quarter century of service this week, Bayswater ECHO chief executive Robin Vernon says the organisation has come a long way since its humble beginnings.

Starting with just eight volunteers when it was incorporated in 1982, the organisation now has 60 volunteers and 30 paid staff, mostly field workers servicing clients.

In addition to its gardening services, Bayswater ECHO has also expanded to provide broader transport services, domestic assistance, personal care, social support and centre-based daycare.

Mr Vernon told WA Business News there had been strong growth in demand for aged-care services, with in-home support proving a popular option as the elderly looked to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.

“Most people don’t want to leave home, and with a bit of support they can still enjoy the comforts of home,” he said.

“Also, it gives a sense of peace of mind for family members knowing that someone’s going around to check on mum and dad.”

The organisation services more than 700 clients each year in the Bayswater local government district, with its transport services alone delivering 12,000 trips last year, taking clients to medical treatments, appointments, shopping and social outings.

With no state or federal government funding available to it at its inception, the organisation’s first government grant some years later was for $3,000 from the Home and Community Care Program; a far cry from the $1.2 million of funds available to it this year, raised through a combination of fees and government funding.

“It’s a completely different organisation than it was [in 1982],” Mr Vernon said.

“The organisation has always had a good reputation and funding has always been available to it.

“It’s always been well supported, and we’ve achieved a lot with what we get.”

The financial support has allowed the organisation to put on paid professionally trained field workers, most of whom work on a casual basis, after the challenge of finding the volume of volunteers needed with the necessary skills proved too difficult.

But while the organisation has been well supported in terms of funding, Mr Vernon believes one of its main challenges is moving it from a small group of people to a larger, more professional body as the level of demand and funding received grows.

“All of a sudden, you’ve got hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of funding, and you have responsibilities as far as accountability,” he said.

“This organisation has gone through that very well.”

With demand for services outstripping its funding, the Bayswater Extended Community Help Organisation is currently assessing its funding options, including the formation of strategic partnerships with other groups.

Mr Vernon said part of the Bayswater ECHO’s forward strategic plan was to look at expanding into other service areas, and possibly into other geographic regions.

The organisation is currently assessing its options, looking at what it does best and playing to its strengths.

“We’re researching different opportunities and looking at what needs are out there in the community,” he said.

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